Hiring employees who misrepresent their qualifications can be a costly mistake for employers. Not only does it damage the reputation of the company, but it can also lead to a loss of productivity and profits. Fortunately, says Nicol Myburgh, Head: HCM Business Unit at CRS Technologies, employers have legal recourse when an employee has misrepresented their qualifications during the hiring process, including claiming back remuneration.

“Employers invest a lot of time and resources in the recruitment and selection process, which includes reviewing CVs, conducting interviews and verifying references. However, despite these efforts, some candidates may exaggerate or outright lie about their qualifications, skills or experience to secure a job offer. This can include misrepresenting education credentials, professional certifications, work experience or other qualifications.”

When an employer discovers that an employee has misrepresented their qualifications, they may have grounds to terminate the employee for cause. Under the National Qualifications Framework Amendment Act 2019, South Africans who are found guilty of misrepresenting their qualifications on their CVs could face a harsh fine, up to five years in prison, or both.

And in some cases, the employer may also seek to recover the salary paid to the employee during their period of employment in a civil lawsuit.

This is known as a claim for “unjust enrichment” and is based on the principle that an employee who obtains a job by misrepresentation should not be entitled to the benefits of that job, including their salary.

To make a claim for unjust enrichment, the employer must prove that the employee made a material misrepresentation that induced the employer to offer the job, and that the employer suffered a loss as a result.

“This could be anything from reputational damage or loss of revenue, and even reduced productivity and customer service levels and low employee morale,” says Myburgh. “The misrepresentation must be significant enough that it would have affected the employer’s decision to hire the employee.

“An employee found guilty of unjust enrichment could find themselves having to forfeit their future salary, pension/provident fund contributions or even physical assets to pay for the damages incurred by the employer.”

Preventative steps

Myburgh cites several steps employers can take to protect themselves from the risk of hiring employees who misrepresent their qualifications. “This can include hiring an external service provider to conduct thorough background checks, verify education and certification credentials, and check references.

“Additionally, it’s good practice to carry out a skills assessment of the candidate during the interview process.”

“Employers may also consider including a clause in employment contracts which allows them to recover any salary paid to an employee who is found to have misrepresented their qualifications.”

Job seekers need to think very carefully before misrepresenting themselves on their CV, Myburgh concludes. “While they might secure employment over the short term, the consequences of their fraud being discovered could negatively impact their career – and their personal lives – for many years to come.”

Click here to visit the CRS website.